The reversal of Trump’s yucca echoes his previous efforts to unravel a political food struggle involving the federal mandate on ethanol, an attempt that infuriated gasoline refiners and corn producers in Iowa. Again, Trump could face political risks by intervening in a politically non-winning energy quagmire.
Some lawmakers also fear that Trump will undermine their efforts to find a compromise in which some states agree to host a small number of interim waste storage sites while the search for a long-term solution continues.
“Not working on a permanent repository will make provisional storage based on consent more difficult, because all of a sudden, these communities will disappear, that is —, we will become permanent storage,” “Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a senior House appropriator who has long championed the Yucca project, told POLITICO.
“This is a dead end for no one who does not seem to be changing,” said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear energy safety for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who is neutral on Yucca but supports the construction of ‘a deposit somewhere.
To further complicate the problem, he said, a 1982 law prohibited the Department of Energy from spending money to build interim nuclear storage unless it had a building permit for Yucca Mountain.
Like Iowa, where Trump defended the ethanol program in his 2016 Republican caucus candidacy, Nevada is a key state on the electoral map. Hillary Clinton carried the state four years ago with only 27,000 votes.
But swapping positions on Yucca may not produce many political benefits for Trump, said University of Nevada professor of political science Eric Herzik, who has been following state policy for decades. He noted that Trump had previously reversed course on regional or state environmental policies, such as plans to cut funding for the restoration of the Everglades and the Great Lakes, in the face of Republican resistance in major swing states. But in this case, the administration had given no indication that it was hesitant to advance the benchmark.
“If it was a political ploy, I don’t see where it will make much difference in Nevada,” said Herzik. “Trump has somewhat removed the carpet from under mainly Republican lawmakers pushing to get the Yucca back on track and it’s a gift to the Democrats in the Nevada delegation.”
Yucca Mountain has long been vulnerable to Congress. Senior Republicans have sought for years to protect Nevada lawmakers by keeping funding off-credit, despite party support for the project. When control of the House was transferred to the Democrats in 2018, President Nancy Pelosi of California “pledged to block funding for Yucca” and lived up to that commitment. Now, some Nevada Democrats view Trump’s statements as entirely linked to the 2020 campaign, saying they won’t be shocked when the overthrow turns out to be temporary.
“I think he needs Nevada in the election, so he folds and says he won’t put it,” said representative Dina Titus (D-Nev.) On local television. interview.
Congress designated Yucca Mountain in 1987 to be the potential home for all of the United States’ high-level nuclear waste, and in 2002 President George W. Bush approved an action by the Department of Energy to continue construction. But political opposition to the Nevada project grew, and the rise of Nevada Democrat Harry Reid as the majority leader in the Senate in 2007 allowed him to stop moving forward.
As a result, all of the waste piling up in the country’s aging nuclear reactors will remain stored at the plant’s sites, even after it is removed and decommissioned. And plant closings could accelerate as nuclear power suffers from competition from wind, solar and cheap natural gas. The United States has 96 operational reactors, and eight of them are expected to retire in the next five years.
“This is a risk management issue,” said representative Scott Peters, a Democrat whose San Diego neighborhood is 45 miles from the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which shut down in 2013. “We Throw the dice and hope nothing happens. The risks are borne by the people who live near these places and the risks are greater than if we moved them.
Despite Trump’s promise to find an “innovative” solution, it is not clear how it will be developed. The federal government already owes $ 28 billion in public service debt, and spent $ 15 billion before putting the project aside. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the administration would create a task force, but neither DOE nor the White House had details of such a group – and each referred questions to the other .
“The United States is the world leader in the development of clean and safe nuclear energy,” said a DOE spokesperson. “The Trump administration is committed to meeting our country’s long-standing challenge to implement a nuclear waste disposal solution that has not been resolved for decades.”
While the concept of a “consent-based” site has a sense of well-being, every state that has been asked so far has turned down the opportunity. The governors of Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and Texas – all states with good geology and plentiful potential locations far from population centers – have strongly rejected the notion in recent years.
“Some people want to make Texas the dumping ground for radioactive waste in America,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott. tweeted last year, when the problem broke out in his state. “I won’t let that happen.”
The nuclear industry remains hopeful that a solution will be found. Ellen Ginsberg, general counsel for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade association, said negotiations are underway in Texas and New Mexico with parties interested in hosting a provisional site.
“We are hopeful that a [interim storage] the location will be found because there are benefits to be had – jobs to be had, a tax base to follow – there are certain benefits that a state and a locality may want to consider “, she declared.
Others fear a host of less visible costs from the lingering stalemate in Washington that leaves trash strewn at retired power plants across the country. Nuclear power plants are often found on valuable coastal real estate – the retired Massachusetts and Florida nuclear power plants are both located on beaches, and one in Wisconsin is on the shores of Lake Michigan.
“The communities that truly understand the damage are those that don’t even have a nuclear power plant in operation,” said representative John Shimkus (Illinois), a high-ranking Republican on the Energy and Trade Committee. “They’re losing the ability to redevelop this site. And in some places they could get a huge return on investment.”
Shimkus, a longtime advocate for moving forward with Yucca, argues that it is difficult to mobilize the public for a solution to the nuclear waste problem without scaring them too much.
“I am not going to be the one raising concerns that it is not safe – it is stored securely,” he told POLITICO. “So it’s a fine line between raising public outcry and mobilizing the public, and then scaring them that where he is right now is not safe. Well, that’s safe. So I think that is part of the challenge. “
Republican sense Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who chair the Energy and Water Subcommittee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively, argue that Trump’s tweet could give a boost to efforts to pass bipartisan legislation that would establish consent. process based on the location of nuclear waste management facilities. The law would also create a new federal organization to manage the materiel.
“President Trump’s decision to adopt alternatives to nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain is good news,” said Alexander in a statement. “There is bipartisan support for enabling the consolidated storage of nuclear waste in private facilities, and I look forward to working with the President to resolve this problem.”
Murkowski said last week that the overthrow of Trump was a complete surprise, but that she had already spoken to colleagues interested in making a new effort on site choice legislation based on consent in light of this.
“It is important to send a signal to states that have facilities that hold waste that we are not just sitting on our hands about it,” she told POLITICO. “We recognize that we have to solve a problem and do it as soon as possible.”